Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mucking Up the Trust System

The whole point of the modern global economy is Trust.  It instantiates the idea that we can work and produce in relationships with people who are not our blood kin.

Because we mostly take it for granted that we can trust people across the world to produce a good for us, it is difficult to understand how radical this is.

One way to appreciate the radicalism of global commercial trust is to rehearse the culture of China.  It is said that what prevented China from taking over the world was that the power of the top-down imperial state forced ordinary people to retreat into and defend themselves from the rapacious Mandarins in their kin networks.

In other words, a flourishing commercial culture requires the emergence of a trust culture and requires a government that keeps its hands off the people and their business.  China in the early modern period lacked this culture and so it suffered the two century humiliation of European dominance.

But don't worry.  Today's West is busily trying to demolish the trust culture that conquered the world.  That's what President Obama is doing when he, as the president of all of us, continues his Alinsky tactic of division from reelection campaign to everyday governance.

There's nothing remarkable in what the president is doing.  It's what any political leader does.  He rallies his supporters behind him in a war against evil.  The innovation is that never since the 1930s has a president rallied his supporters so nakedly against the productive sector, corporations and successful businessmen.

The trouble is that the president is demolishing the trust culture upon which our prosperity is founded.  Lewis Lehrman, in a quick history of money and credit, shows how the government's appetite for resources leads it to demolish the delicate skeins of money and credit.

Money and credit are based on trust, they entail "moral obligation," Lehrman writes.  Inflation through unrestricted fiat money creation is the breakdown of trustworthy money.
Inflation prevails in America and the world today because of a breakdown of the institutions of trust that convertibility to gold once provided for the dollar. People no longer gladly accept and hold the dollar for long periods. They try to get rid of it in favor of something real: commodities, automobiles, real estate, equities, art, antiques, or coins. Producers and consumers have lost faith in the dollar because the government and the Federal Reserve have created more dollars than participants in the market desire to hold. Government overproduced money and credit in order to finance its colossal deficits and manipulate the economy, prices, demand, and employment levels. As a result, the paper dollar has ceased to be real money.
The problem is that inflation leads from bad to worse.  "Inflation or monetary depreciation entails a price revolution. It often precedes, and indeed it may cause, a more thoroughgoing political revolution."

There's a book about that: The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History by David Hackett Fischer.  The classic Price Revolution is France in the 18th century.  France found that it could not keep up with the Brits to finance their Second Hundred Years War and so defaulted on its sovereign debt, again and again.  Naturally the French blamed the greedy bankers.

But the problem with screwing up the government's finances is that it lowers the prestige of the ruling class enough so that, in the end, you get the French Revolution.  Not that the French Revolution was much of an improvement on the douceur de la vie under the ancien régime.

The fact is that politics is about division.  A politician must divide the nation into "us" --  the ruling class and its supporters -- and "them" -- those dastardly Tea Party types that deserve what they get from the IRS.  Everybody does it; it's just that some people do it more ruthlessly than others, eh, Mr. President?

But the way you do division is to sow distrust among the people.  As in greedy insurance companies and greedy bankers and corporate greed.  Because if people trust their local supermarket and their local gas station and their local doctor why would they demand that the government solves the problem of greedy corporations and tax the rich to teach them a lesson?

Government is force, but even government needs an excuse, a justification, for waging war on regime opponents.  If you wonder how it's done, just listen to President Obama for a month or two.  Every word out of our president's mouth is about preparing the battlefield for another campaign of division.  It sows the fruited plain with the tares of mistrust.  To justify another program of coercion.

The great achievement of Christianity, according to Max Weber, was to get Europeans to trust people outside the limits of blood kin.

The great achievement of the Left is to get people everywhere to mistrust and hate anyone outside their "identity" group.

Go figure.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Poor Bloody Corporations

You can see what the Dems are up to.  Haul Apple CEO Time Scott up on Capitol Hill.  Get shocked, shocked that Apple has avoided billions in taxes.

Then Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) calls for tax increases on corporations.  Says he: "We need additional revenue from corporations whose contributions to the treasury have gone down."  I guess he's looking at this chart.

It shows that corporate income taxes have been going down as a percent of GDP over the long term.  But what of it? Is it because corporate incomes taxes have gone down as a percent of GDP or because corporate profits have gone down as a percent of GDP?

And anyway, corporate income tax rates are higher in the US than almost anywhere else.

So does it matter?

Put it this way.  If you are a government dependent, then of course you want to suck the economy for whatever you need for your next check.

But if you are a young person looking to get a job or pursue a career then the only thing that you care about -- or should care about if you have a clue about the economy -- is robust and increasing corporate profits.

And you certainly don't want corporate profits going to the government where they won't create new jobs.

Hey, maybe the extra tax money will go for a couple dozen new $177,000 a year Lois Lerners at the IRS to help implement Obamacare.  What's not to like!

And anyway, the idea that the corporate income tax is a problem misses the point.  Corporations are the government's main tax collector.  They collect the myriad taxes on labor that the laboring working stiff or stiffette never sees.  There's the 7.6 percent employer share of the FICA tax.  There's unemployment tax.  There's workers comp.  That's all paid by corporations -- out of money that ought to be going to workers.  You see, the ruling class decided decades ago that working stiffs couldn't really handle their own money.  So it would be safer for the government to look after it and put it in a Trust Fund (you know, just like the rich!) until the worker needed it.

Meanwhile the ruling class could use the money to buy votes.

Obviously our liberal friends are focusing on the corporate income tax because its an easy way to gin up outrage.  I recently had an email exchange with a chap that had all the talking points to hand.  The unspoken assumption was that we need the money for programs for people.  So the money has to come from somewhere.

No it doesn't.  In my view we need to break the spell at its source.  Government is force, so it stands to reason that everything the government does is done under the color of compulsion.  Whaddya mean that people can't be trusted to save for their own retirement?  Whaddya mean that seniors are helpless fools that can't pay for their own health care?  Whaddya mean that parents are so dumb that they can't be trusted to educate their own children?

That's what I contest.  Because once you have conceded that people are dumb or something then you have conceded the main point.  You have conceded that average people must be forced to do the right thing; the only question is how much force is necessary.

Government, on my view is the agent for defense against enemies foreign and domestic.  For that you need force.

Are we really saying that corporations are the enemy?  And rich people too?  Of course some people get rich because of government.  There are senators that have become multimillionaires without ever working in the private sector.  There are corporations that get rich from government contracts.  There are corporations that get rich from government subsidies.  Think green energy.

But then there is Apple.  Apple got rich on the vision of Steve Jobs to create the real life Dick Tracy watch, a tiny appliance that you can use as a audio or video link with anyone in the world.

Apple needs to pay more taxes?  So that it has less money to invent cool new appliances?

And let us not forget that cell-phones are perhaps even more beneficial in the Third World than in the good old USA.  Think of sardine fishermen off the west coast of India talking on their cell-phones with the sardine buyers in each nearby port to find the best price for their catch.

Please.  No. More. Taxes.  Because all government is a waste.  All of it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

All Wars Must End. Then What?

What are we to make of the president's End of the War speech at the National Defense University last week.  It's the one in which he said:
But this war, like all wars, must end.  That’s what history advises.  That’s what our democracy demands.
He is talking about the AUMF, the Congressional Authorization to Use Military Force that is now "nearly 12 years old."  He wants a national conversation:
 I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.
Is this a practical step, a final end to the failed Bush doctrine, or a grievous betrayal of the young men that fought and died in the war on terror, a progressive muddle that misunderstands the issue of militant Islam?

The answer, of course, is All of the Above.

On balance, I think this is a good thing.  Not because President Obama is doing the right thing, not at all.  I rate President Obama as a man that usually fails to think out of the box of his postmodern identity liberalism.  That is a failing that is costing and will cost America a bundle.  The one thing we need today in America is leadership that can think outside of the liberal conventional wisdom.

Surely, though, after twelve years since 9/11, it is time to step back and think seriously about what we are doing in the Middle East, in the war on terror, in the cultural conflicts of conservatism vs. the welfare state, secularism vs. religion, Christianity vs. Islam.

When you do that it is not that hard to decide what to do.

At the tactical level we need to make things difficult for individual terrorists and work on making them appear shameful and monstrous.  And please, there must be a way to make our airplanes safe other than the dead hand of the bureaucracy at the Transportation Security Administration.

At the strategic level we want to make life difficult for Iran and bolster the strategic situation of Israel.  It doesn't hurt that Israel now has petroleum wells out in the Mediterranean and that the fracking revolution is going to marginalize Mideast oil.

But it is at the grand strategic or cultural vision level that we have the real problem.  It is not because of Islam.  It is because of the problem of liberalism.  Instead of building a society of independent sociable individuals that freely and generously work and save and give, we have been busily building, for the last century, a balkanized culture defined by the old marks of identity -- sex, race, and tribe -- with a powerful addiction to government "free stuff."

Why is that?  It's simple.  That is the way you increase the power of the liberal ruling class.  Divide and conquer, it is called.  Liberals want to segregate the population into separate identity ghettos and rile up each identity group with hate.  That's the way that government thrives.  When everyone is a helpless victim, surrounded by malevolent forces like The Man or The Great Satan, then they need government to protect them from everything.

The great virtue of the feckless Obama years, the years the locust ate, is that at the end of it we will be forced to get serious -- about not just the problem of Islam but the greater question of the putrid problems in our own culture.  For that we can thank our First Black President.

All we know is that it ain't gonna be easy.  But then nothing worthwhile ever was easy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tri-gate: Pay for Play

I know we are all supposed to be outraged at Lois Lane, er, Lerner's neat little trick of taking the Fifth right after her self-justificatory statement.

Yeah, what would Clark Kent down at the Daily Planet say about that?

But let's be practical.  Lois Lerner is merely telling Congress a simple fact.  Hey, pal, you want information, you gonna pay for it.  Immunity for Information.  Pay for play.  That's the First Commandment in the Beltway.

Immunity for Information.  That's how things go in the Obamian Culture of Intimidation.

Look.  We conservatives finally get to come up for air and have a good laugh.  Because liberals did this to themselves.  They believe in the chimera of Good Government.  Ethical activists and credentialed experts think up beneficial legislation and then the administrative state executes on it.

Settled science alert:  Hayek told us half a century ago that the Good Government/Expert/Administrative state model was bound to fail, because the man in Whitehall (he was still in Britland at the time) could never know more than a million consumers.

On top of that liberals believe in a kind of salvific politics.  Only elect the right man, the young and vigorous JFK, the charismatic policy wonk Bill Clinton, the intellectual Barack Obama, and the oceans will start to recede.

(Do these people not understand how religious this sort of thing sounds?)

But government is force.  Politics is division.  Administration is domination.  If you don't limit all three you lose society.  It turns into an internment camp.  Liberals think that because they are virtuous and well intentioned and intellectual that they can design a beneficent society administered by large-minded people like them.

But the philosophy of limited government says that anyone, no matter how virtuous and large-minded, is corrupted by power.  It says that the more government you have, the more force you have.  The more politics you have the more society will be divided.  And the more that you systemize things into administrative bureaucracies the more domination you have.

Well, now, five years after liberals went into a multiple political orgasm over the OMG! First! Black! President! we are starting to see the wages of folly.  That wonderful intellectual president has been presiding over an IRS that has specifically targeted grass-roots political organizations for delay and harassment.  The wonderful politician who was going to move beyond red and blue has tapped the telephones of AP journalists.  Not just right-wing nut-cases at FoxNews, but good liberal AP journalists!  And the most transparent administration in history is tangled in a web of lies and obfuscations over the murder of a US Ambassador.

Look liberals.  Politicians are merely professional specialists in winning elections.  That is all.  Activists are activists, narrow, driven people with an agenda.  Experts are thinking about their next grant.  And bureaucrats are thinking about keeping their noses clean for the next few years until they collect their pensions.  That is what you believe in.

There is such a thing as society; it's just not the same thing as the state.  Society evokes the idea that humans are social animals; we cooperate and work and play together because that's who we are.  But government is force; politics is division.  The more government you have, the less freedom you have. the more politics you have, the less unity you have.  With more government and more politics, the less society you have, because you have reduced society to an internment camp of force and division, mediated by systematic bureaucratic domination.

I don't think liberals really understand what is coming.  They are safe in the soothing NYT-NPR bubble.  But people are hurting.  They are hurting as they get stripped of their health insurance by Obamacare, as they are stripped of a future by the sluggish economy.

Think of the next three years as Oklahoma in the tornado season.  There are black clouds all around, but nobody knows when a line of thunderstorms will touch down into a twister.  And nobody can know whose house it will rip apart and whose life it will tear in pieces.

Conservatives and Republicans are notorious for being stupid about politics and messaging and tactics.  But when something big is in the air the minutiae of tactics usually don't matter as much as the professionals would like to believe.  What matters instead is what the Soviets used to call the "correlation of forces" or the "contradictions" of the existing order.

All we can know for sure is that the lives of millions of Americans are going to be ripped to shreds in the next few years as the tornado of bankrupt government touches down on the ordinary American heartland.

And all the while the job-for-life IRS myrmidons that dutifully ragged on mom-and-pop Tea Parties will be taking the Fifth and bargaining about Immunity for Information.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Richard Wagner: Most Hated Composer

Today's the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner.  He's #3 in Charles Murray's list of classical composers compiled in Human Accomplisment.  But he's probably #1 on the list of most-hated composers.

That would partly be due to his anti-semitism.  And partly due to the fact that he wrecked the good old opera formula of recitative followed by beautiful songs.

But really, he upended music as a whole.  The best way to understand this is to listen to a movie (while you watch it).  It was Wagner that invented that kind of music, setting the tone of the movie, telling you in the feeling in sound of what is going on visually and what you should feel about it.

Wagner always lived the spirit of the age.  He was a Romantic, then a lefty revolutionary, then a Schopenhauerian pessimist.  And he did his best to bring all that out in his music.

This sort of thing infuriated the purists.  He took the Nordic myths about power struggles between the gods and turned it into a drama about power, duty, and love.  He took the Arthurian Tristan and made it all about sex.  He took Eschenbach's Parzival and made him into a post-aristocratic post-Christian upper-class ascetic.

That points up the main thing to know about Wagner.  He requires total surrender.  Think the opera is too slow? Too long? Too chromatic?  Too improbable?  Too bad.

My own relationship with Wagner began in the 1970s.  My wife had asked me to get tickets to the Flying Dutchman and Mr. Skinflint didn't do it.  But I got an LP of the Dutchman from the library and was blown over.   Not by the singing, but by the Prelude, which is an astonishing impressionistic piece that evokes wind and storm.  The story is about Senta's sacrifice of love.  All heroines in Wagner sacrifice themselves for love.

Wouldn't you know, by the time I actually got season tickets to the opera, Director Glynn Ross in Seattle was mobilizing for a full Ring cycle for the centenary Ring year of 1976.  So I got to go to Der Ring des Nibelungen, the whole thing.

People ask: how can you sit through four nights of opera, and long operas at that.  The answer, of course, is that going to the Ring is a ritual, and rituals are supposed to be boring; they are supposed to force you to get rid of your monkey mind and surrender to the experience.  It is, if you like, a form of meditation.

At the end of the Ring, after the end of Götterdämmerung, you know you have experienced one of the great aesthetic experiences known to man.  That is why the Ring is so popular, even though Wagner's music is so challenging.

What about the bad parts, the anti-semitism?  Wagner was undoubtedly a minor monster.  He aligned his life completely with the various spirits of the age.  And one of them was anti-semitism. When the Jews were released from their ghettos in Germany in the 19th century they exploded into the economy and the culture with a power that frightened lots of people.  Kinda like the way that liberals are terrified of conservatives and Christians.  Where do these people come from?

But like it or not, Richard Wagner was a musical genius, and after Wagner music will never be the same.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Putting a Name on Obama Politics

It's lucky that liberals never have to look at themselves in a mirror, and never have to listen to their hate speech.

Because what liberals do is an utter betrayal of what they say they believe.

They say that everything they do is for the little people.  But they don't have a problem siccing the IRS on the little people of the Tea Party.  They say that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, but don't you dare dissent against liberalism, in the university or in the public square.  Not if you know what is good for you.

Liberals justify their gun-control politics with the mantra "if it saves one life."  But the brave media was hiding behind the ink barrel when abortionist Kermit Gosnell was on trial for snipping the spinal cords of live babies.

That is why I have developed the mantra "government is force; politics is division; system is domination."

Because it is all too easy -- for anyone, liberal or conservative -- to justify bigger government when you assume that there's nobody here but us chickens, and we care.  That's phoney baloney.  Because when you have the power of government you have the power of force, the power to peer into peoples' lives, to count them, to tax them, to send in OSHA or the ATF.

And when you have the power of government, sooner or later you are going to use it, as the Obamis did, to help win the next election.  And you do it not just by buying votes but by siccing enforcement officers on your opponents.  Get that?  "Enforcement?" As in force.  Golly, could it be that government is force?

It's natural in the to-and-fro of politics to think of your team as the good guys and the other team as the bad guys.  You can see this very human instinct at work in every sports stadium.

But our liberal friends have built a whole secular religion on the notion that they are the forces of good. They know that God -- or in the liberal case, justice -- is on their side.

That's why God created the First Amendment and the separation of Church and State.  The idea is that the moralists and the good guys don't get to tell the government enforcement officers what to do.

Liberal orthodoxy collapses the separation between their secular church and the government.  Their politics and their religion are one and the same.  It means nothing to them to accuse their opponents of the worst evils they can think of: racism, sexism, anti-choice fascism, homophobia.  Liberals diligently teach college students to hate racists and homophobes, starting with freshman orientation.

So it's just one small step to ordering IRS agents to harass Tea Party applicants with requests for their Facebook posts and their reading lists.

Reading lists!  Just imagine what would have happened if the Bush administration had asked for the reading lists of the Soros funded non-profits.

As I've written, it's one thing for the little darlings of the ruling class to run around harassing the evil racists, sexists, and homophobes when they are learning their trade in college.  It is another thing when they are doing it as government officials.

When private persons are harassing racists and sexists and homophobes they are just nasty little Alinskyite thugs.  But when government officials do it they are nasty little petty tyrants.  And there is a word for what they are doing as they tyrannize over their political opponents.

The word is Injustice.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Obama's War on Women

One of the underappreciated facts about the Tea Party movement is that women have been in the vanguard.  And they started organizing in the fall of 2008.

We're supposed to believe that all women are Democrats.  But Keli Carender (@LiberTBelle), who started the Tea Party here in the Seattle area, is a graduate of Oxford, a teacher and sometime actor.

Doesn't fit the profile.

And of course many of the Tea Party groups that the IRS was targeting in the run-up to the 2012 election were moms that didn't like what they saw coming out of Washington, DC.

Now we have the case of True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht, profiled on NRO today.  From Houston, Texas, this wife of a small manufacturer got involved also in the fall of 2008.  When she did some election monitoring she decided to do something about it and founded True the Vote.

I have found that election shenanigans seems to touch a sensitive nerve with women.

True the Vote got the attention of the Feds, and even Democratic legislators, and since then they have been regular visitors at the Engelbrecht business: IRS, OSHA, even the ATF!

As we crank up into the current scandal season, there is one thing in the back of my mind.  What was it that triggered these women off in the fall of 2008?

The easy thing would be that they are all racists.  Didn't like the powerful black man getting elected to the White House.

Trouble is: many of these women don't fit the profile.  They are educated, articulate.

So what did set them off?  Was it the Alinsky tactics?  But back in 2008 you had to be really paying attention to get that.  Was it the left-wing agenda?  But Obama kept that under wraps back then.

Well.  Now that we have three, four scandals going full bore, we may get to find out.  I think I'll go to the Seattle Tea Party rally at the IRS tomorrow, just to take a gander.

Because I always think that what women are thinking and feeling is the only thing that matters.

The hand that rocks the cradle.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Obama. A Gift from the Gods

In a thumb-sucker about the managerial shortcomings of the Obama White House, John Fund surfaces the worries of Democrats, that "chaotic implementation" of Obamacare could "could become the biggest political liability Democrats will face in next year’s midterm elections."

Don't set your sights too high, Mr. Fund.  How about: the train wreck of Obamacare implementation could result in the biggest electoral meltdown since the Republican Party nearly destructed in the Great Depression.

Because the meltdown of Obamacare is going to be personal to the millions of women who want to keep their healthcare arrangements and who spend half their lives discussing their healthcare experiences and procedures with their friends.  That's why President Obama told Americans again and again that if they liked their health insurance they could keep it.

But now there's a good chance that not only will people not be able to keep their health insurance but everything about health care will be thrown into a maelstrom.

It's been telling this week that Obama campaign guru David Axelrod has been on TV saying that the government is just too big for one man to supervise.  The HotAir guys were right on it.
What’s significant about Axelrod’s defense of O is that he’s pointing to the size of government as a structural reason for why scandal might proliferate, which is downright Reaganesque as a critique of the federal leviathan. The bigger the government gets, the less accountability there’ll be. That’s conservatism 101.
The problem for conservatives is that, most of the time, the administrative welfare state sorta kinda rubs along.  Sure the dollar has been reduced to $0.02 in a century by the repeated need to get the government out of a jam.  But people still get their Social Security checks.

But suppose that the complete centralization and bureaucratization of health care leads to a meltdown?

Imagine that Mitt Romney had won the presidential election and the Democrats had kept the Senate.  Then any problems with Obamacare implementation would be cried down by the mainstream media and Democratic lawmakers as all the fault of Romney, who didn't care who dies, as in Joe Soptic's wife.  One-term president anyone?

Look, the American people had a choice in 2012.  They could go with the man that had spent his entire life fixing dysfunctional organizations or they could go with the president who was not Mitt Romney.  Anyone who knows anything can see that a turnaround is needed and that the administrative welfare state is heading for the rapids.

But the American people said No.  We ain't ready for strong medicine, not yet, they said.

OK, fellas.  If you don't want to respond to the writing on the wall, how about getting slapped upside the head.  That is what the meltdown of Obamacare will mean, and it has the potential for a sea-change in US politics.

In that scenario the current scandals -- Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP wiretaps -- are just icing on the cake, warmup bouts for the Main Event.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dear Liberals: About Your Politics of Hate

I dare say that, after a month of two of denial, liberal pundits will start asking: How could this happen to good people like us?

Let me help.  The answer is simple.

Racists, sexists, bigots and homophobes.

No, I don't mean that racists, sexists, bigots and homophobes did this to you.  I mean that liberal politics, which marginalizes anyone that disagrees with the liberal ruling class as a racist, sexist, bigot or homophobe, is the problem here.  Let me quote conservative writer Harry Stein.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Gee, I forgot the Gosnell part of all this; that would be important to well-born feminist editors.

The point is this.  When you so easily brand your political opponents as evil monsters, it becomes very easy to decide that they don't deserve a place in the public square.  It becomes easy to, e.g., hold up applications from Tea Party groups for 401(c)(4) status at the IRS.

Mike Adams, conservative professor at the University of North Carolina goes further.  He reminds his readers that the political correctness/multicultural culture at our nations' colleges actually teaches young people to be ruthless warriors in the political wars.
Many were shocked to learn that IRS agents actually targeted conservative advocacy groups for heightened scrutiny when making decisions concerning their tax exempt status. I don't know why so many people were shocked. This is what university administrators have been doing for nearly twenty years. I've been writing about it for over ten years because I know that what you see on the campus today is what you will see in the broader culture tomorrow.
What is more, the students that show ruthlessness towards Christians and conservatives and white males get rewarded by the powers that be.  And if they cut a corner or two, hey, no worries!

So of course when these young skulls full of mush get out into the real world of liberal activism they just do as they have learned.  They sicc the IRS on the ordinary Americans that have formed Tea Party groups -- and then they sneer at the rubes for their naivete in actually following the rules.

(If they are dumb rubes then how can they be dangerous extremists?)

And that's the problem with the Alinsky culture.  You see, it's one thing to be a speaking-truth-to-power activist making the powerful follow their own rules, and going after people rather than institutions because people hurt easier.  But when you become the government then doing the Alinsky is simple injustice -- rank, raw, cruel injustice.

So let's do the full Eisenhower on this.  If you don't know how to solve a problem, make it bigger.

The real problem is that, with the Death of God in the ruling class, our liberal ruling class has made politics their religion.  But when you integrate politics and religion and add in the economy for good measure, what you get is totalitarianism.

I just happen to have been writing about that only yesterday.  The problem, as I define it, is the need for "Separation of Secular Church and State."  In the Founding Fathers' vision, there should not be an establishment of religion.  Good point.  But what about secular religion, like socialism, fascism, environmentalism (saving the planet)?  The problem is just the same.  You really don't want moralists as government officials legislating their morality on the rest of us.

But liberals don't get that.  Just try it on a liberal friend.  They don't realize that when they rail about "hate" groups they are talking about themselves.  Because politics is division, and it divides with hate, as in: "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What If Romney Had Won?

Since we are entering full-scale second-term scandal mode, what with Benghazi and the IRS scandal, it's worth stepping back to think about what things would be like if Mitt Romney had won.

We would have divided government and a combative media looking for every opportunity to brand Romney and his policies as cruel and unfeeling.  Because that's what political liberals do, whether in the mainstream media, in the activist groups, or in elected office.

But now we are going to see four years of developing scandals and coverups.  The mainstream media won't like it, and will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to cover it.  But the protracted nature of the experience will energize conservatives and Republicans and demoralize Democrats and liberals.

That makes it much more likely that the 2014 midterms will see a switch in the Senate to GOP control and much more likely that 2016 will be a change election, rather than a Four More Years election.

The downside is that the nation's politics and economy will drift for four more years, as the Obamis are forced to concentrate on fighting investigations and sub-poenas and running belated coverups instead of actually governing.

I know.  That could be a good thing if it prevents them from wreaking more damage to the economy and to society.  Hopefully it won't be worse than the 1973-74 period when inflation spiralled upwards ending in a nasty recession.

But the encouraging thing is that by November 2016 the American people, even including perhaps the emerging Democratic majority of women, minorities, and young people, will be thoroughly fed up with the Obama administration that promised Hope and Change and a fundamental transformation of America.  The partisans will not blame their hero of course.  They will suspect that over-zealous underlings or dark forces "done him in."  They will think that President Obama had good ideas but was betrayed by forces beyond his control.

But if Romney had won they would be blaming him for anything that went wrong, because that's what the mainstream media would be telling them.

Then there will be the moderates and the independents.  They will not be so forgiving.  They will see that everything has gone wrong, from home prices to health insurance.  And they will think it is time for a change.

Will they be ready, in 2017, for a Republican president and a Republican Congress to cut spending, fix the entitlements, and cauterize the crony capitalist economy?  Who knows?  But it is up to the winning Republican candidate to persuade them.

And we will be, at least, four more years into the fracking energy revolution.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day Meltdown

Remember the Saturday Night Massacre in the Nixon Administration?  It was October 10, 1973 and the Watergate scandal was going critical.

President Nixon wanted to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor, but Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than do the dirty deed.  Finally Solicitor General Robert Bork agreed to do it.

Last week, in the run-up to Mothers Day the troubles of the Obama administration went critical.  Let's call it the Mothers Day Meltdown.  It was the week that the smoking Benghazi scandal caught fire as the mainstream media finally woke up from their partisan naps to realize that some bad stuff went down on September 11, 2012, when the Obama administration was dithering around wondering what to do about an Al Qaeda attack.  How could that be when supposedly Osama bin Laden was dead and Al Qaeda was on the run?

The mainstream media is finally waking up to realize that the Benghazi talking points present its shining Obama administration as a bunch of small-minded dissemblers, telling a tawdry lie to get out of a jam in the weeks before the November election.  You read media types saying: "Oh wow! And we thought Benghazi was just a Republican partisan witch-hunt."

Really.  And I have a bridge to sell you.

The other side of the Mothers Day Meltdown is the Friday afternoon admission by the IRS that a rogue office in Cincinnati was unfairly harassing the applications of conservative groups for 401(c) status as non-profit organizations.  Well, what a surprise!

No doubt in the months ahead we will be asking: "What did the White House know and when did it know it."  Don't hold your breath.  No doubt the whole business is fully protected with circuit breakers and "deniability."

But really, it doesn't need a conspiracy.  It all goes back to Thomas à Becket and the king complaining "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"  When four courtiers obliged, and murdered him in the cathedral, the king got all huffy and upset.

Yes, I'm sure that nobody in the White House actually told the black ladies in the IRS Cincinnati office to bear down on any organization with "tea party" or "patriot" in its name.

Heck, they didn't need to.  After all, the black ladies had their local Reverend Wright telling them about the racists in white Amerikkka.  They had MSNBC railing against evil conservatives.  Why shouldn't they do their bit for the First Black President and rid him of his turbulent enemies?

Back in the 2000s conservatives used to rail against President Bush because he didn't fight back against the daily calumnies against his policies and his person.  Maybe President Bush knew something that his partisans foolishly didn't.  If he'd sicced Karl Rove for a verbal attack on his enemies then some mid-level official in some department somewhere might decide to do his "bit" to help out the president.

Of course, if some bitter clinger in the IRS office in red-neck Texas back then had decided to start targeting groups with "progressive" in their names, the whole media world would have erupted.

It all goes to show that liberals are a lot less smart than they think they are.  The reason that you limit government is that all power corrupts.  The reason that presidents try not to be too partisan between elections is that it sets American against American.  And while it's the nature of politics that in each election you divide the nation into Us and Them, you are well advised not to continue the divisiveness and run a permanent campaign.  You might end up dividing the nation into a civil war.

I wrote a week or so ago about the end of the Democrats' decade-long Big Push.  The bigger question is whether it is 1942 with Army Group A strung out in the Caucausus and a flank attack developing against the Sixth Army before Stalingrad.

My guess is that the Democrats are in for a disastrous four years.  The economy is a mess, Obamacare is coming, inflation will be rearing its ugly head.  People will decide it is time for a change.  And the Democrats' "emerging majority" will suffer a bad case of the flu and stay home on election day.

But a week is a long time in politics.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Republicans Doing the Right Thing

Way back, 39 years ago, when President Nixon was impeached in the House of Representatives for lying about Watergate, three Republican senators went down Pennsylvania to tell the president that he had to resign rather than face trial in the US Senate.  The three senators were Jim Buckley (R-NY), Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), and Hugh Scott (R-PA).

By the way, Hillary Clinton was a young staffer on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate.

Were those three senators patriots,  asks F.H. Buckley?  Nah.  Patsies.

Because 20 years later, when President Clinton was impeached in the House of Representatives for lying about Monica Lewinsky, Vice-President Al Gore went down Pennsylvania Avenue to hold a pep rally for the impeached president and encourage him to fight on.

What was the point of Republicans doing the right thing and telling President Nixon to go if the Democrats won't to the right thing when a Democratic president breaks the rules

Now, of course, we have a new presidential scandal, about the Obama administration lying about the killing of a US Ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.  So what should Republicans do?

They should do the right thing, even if the Democrats won't, and even if the "spectacle of the Dems on the Committee trying to save Hillary was sick-making."

Politics is a rough game, and the Clintons play it harder than most.  But there is no percentage for Republicans and conservatives to play the Clinton way, and here's why.

  • The Clinton hardball and the Obama Chicago way require willing accomplices in the media to echo their statements and excuses and accusations.  Republicans can never get that kind of support.  So hardball doesn't work.
  • Liberals and Democrats believe in politics like a religion.  The political game of Us against Them gets transformed into the religious battle of Good against Evil.  So politics for them is a battle of Good against Evil.  Conservatives and Republicans don't believe in the salvific effect of politics.  For us, the drama of good and evil takes place outside politics.
  • Conservatives and Republicans are "People of the Responsible Self."  We believe that each of us, individually, is responsible to God, to our self, to our families, our neighbors, our country for our actions.  That means that it is difficult to justify questionable means to obtain a noble end.
Anyway, life and politics do not stand or fall on tactics.  There are bigger things in play than the way you throw a punch on the playground.

The bigger thing is that, however the Clintonistas and the Obamis play their games and coverups over Benghazi, the failure in Benghazi points up the bankruptcy of the see-no-evil foreign policy of the Democrats.  Obama bin Laden is dead, but Islamism is still a totalitarian ideology that a nation like the United States should name and oppose.  The question should be: what are the appropriate means to this end?

The bigger thing is that the Democrats are pursuing a disastrous economic policy that will end in tears --either in inflation or in financial crisis.

The bigger thing is that the Democrats' refusal to reform government entitlements and the rest of their creaking bureaucratic government programs is going to lead to real widespread hardship among Democratic voters when the government runs out of money.

So the right thing to do is to be formulating policies and messages to deal with the coming disasters, to solve them competently and with the least amount of hardship to the American people, including even the foolish Democratic voters that keep voting for the free stuff that, soon enough, will stop.

And if, in the future, a Republican president lies to the American people and covers it up, we can only hope that there will again be three Republican senators with enough honor and principle to go down Pennsylvania Avenue and tell the president it's time to go.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and Politics

Conservatives are always worrying about being out-politicked by the liberals.  Here's Daniel Henninger at The Wall Street Journal noticing that liberals are at work trying to defuse the youth jobs issue while conservatives argue with each other over immigration.
In Campaign 2012, Barack Obama promised the youth vote a rose garden. What they've got instead, as far as the eye can see, is an employment wasteland. 
So what are liberals doing about it?  They are trying to defuse it.  But really, they don't have an answer.  There's a study from the Center for American Progress, "The High Cost of Youth Unemployment," that, well, throws up its hands.
While this problem won't go away soon, the Times piece [on the CAP report] suggests how it will be explained away. The problem is global (true), and the "root causes" include low educational achievement (true, just don't mention the teachers unions) and not enough retraining. To help, we also could ease those parts of "the regulatory thicket without societal benefits" (translation: hands off ObamaCare). Other than that, economists find all this youth unemployment "a very big puzzle." Hmm. 
This sounds as though the liberals are still in throat-clearing mode on jobs.  Meanwhile Sen. Ted Cruz is running this all-hat-and-no-cattle tweet about Obama and jobs.  How long can it be before the MSM is trying to sideline Cruz as an extremist "bomb-thrower"?

Look.  Conservatives don't get to talk directly to the "yoof."  Liberals have the kids' liberal teachers, liberal college professors, liberal script-writers, liberal musicians.

But there comes a time in the life of every young person when they have to wonder about the story that the adults have told them.  Then, and only then are they ready for a new narrative.  By 2016 every intelligent young person will surely be wondering what went wrong.

Another thing.  The remarkable Hillary Clinton will, apparently, be running for president in 2016.  She will celebrate her 69th birthday just days before the election.  Leading a Clinton machine that is now over 20 years old.  They say that a national political figure has a shelf life of about 20 years.

My guess is that the US voters in 2016 will be thinking that it is "time for a change."  I don't see the youth vote getting all excited by a figure from the past.  I don't see the minority vote getting all excited after the disappointments of 8 years of Obama.  But I do see the gun people being all riled up.  And I do see the beginnings of a sea-change on the abortion issue.  Here's a touching story about a man who was nearly aborted by his 17-year-old mother in 1975.  When mother and son talked about it here's what went down.
She asked if I could forgive her. I answered, “Yes, with all my heart.”
Yeah.  Think about it, young 'uns and old 'uns.  There is one remarkable thing about not being aborted.  You get to play Jesus and tell your mommy that you forgive her for thinking about abortion.

The coming years are going to be so serious that the usual liberal tactics just aren't going to do the job for them.  Because the American people are going to be face to face with the most awful problems.

But the main problem is pretty simple.  After a century of the welfare state western society is all gummed up with the great inflexible entitlements and privileges that rigidify everything from the economy to the individual working lives of people.  The only way forward is to dissolve these encrusted corrosions and privileges.

In practice this means that the next political genius has to figure out how to persuade the grannies not to do the Charlton Heston line: You can take my Medicare out of my cold dead hands.

The promise of capitalism is that it will shower us all with prosperity, but only if we surrender to its mandate of permanent economic revolution.  There is no sacred right to a lifetime job, no right to a permanent pension, no right to intimidate other people out of a job.  Everyone must surrender to the daily orders of the market.  This commandment is encoded in the idea of the "invisible hand" that we should all first work to serve others in order to obtain our sustenance.

But government is force, politics is division, and so political leaders have always tempted people with the idea that they have a right to demand their rights and impose them on the rest of the nation.  This always ends up as a bureaucratic system, and system is domination, so every government intervention ends up as coercion and domination, replacing an old injustice with a new one.

I don't think that the liberals will be able to finesse this problem with fancy footwork and a compliant media much longer.  By 2016 the US voters will be in a nasty mood, and they won't be dutifully singing in the choir like they did in 2008.

But you never know.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Horowitz's Foreign Policy Indictment

It was in the summer of 2003, David Horowitz writes in National Review, that Democrats broke the post 9/11 consensus and started the "Bush Lied" meme.
The moment when Republicans lost the national-security narrative — and abandoned their role as defenders of the homeland — came in June 2003, just six weeks after the Saddam regime fell. That month, the Democratic party launched a national television campaign claiming that Bush lied to the American people to lure them into a war that was “unnecessary,” “immoral,” and “illegal.”
It was a meme that carried Barack Obama into the White House and built the Democratic majorities in Congress that could pass Obamacare.  Only, of course, if Bush had "lied" then the Democrats had lied too, because they had access to the same intelligence.
Bush could not have lied to Kerry or the congressional Democrats about WMDs in Iraq, because Kerry and other Democrats sat on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and had access to the same intelligence data that Bush relied on to make his case for the war. When the Democrats authorized and supported the war, they knew everything that Bush knew. The claim that he lied to get their support was itself the biggest lie of the war. Its only purpose was to hide the Democrats’ own perfidy in abandoning the nation’s mission for partisan gain, and to discredit the president and turn the country against him, at whatever cost, in the hope of winning the 2004 election.
In Horowitz's view Republicans lost their right to be taken seriously as defenders of the homeland when they failed to push back on the "Bush lied" meme.  So here we are ten years later and Republicans just lost an election where no Republican candidate made national security a big issue.  Indeed, when Michele Bachmann and others made an issue of Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin's family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, even Republicans sat on her.

Why won't the Republicans fight, asks Horowitz?

The answer is, because they don't want their army to get demolished.  For warriors like Horowitz it is always time to fight.  But Republicans understand that they must pick their fights.  They cannot, like the Democrats, inject their memes into the public square and expect them to find their way into the mind of every American.  In the summer of 2011 Republicans could not have won the hearts and minds of Americans with complaints about a "jobless recovery".  They just don't have the cultural power.  Sometimes they just have to retreat.

Let's look at the political cultural scene from 30,000 feet.  On the one hand there are the liberals, who don't really like capitalism and don't really like western cultural hegemony.  They see themselves as an educated elite with the moral right to rule America.  Their political power is based on identity politics and the distribution of free stuff by the welfare state.

On the other hand there are the conservatives, who believe in capitalism and believe in an aggressive defense of western culture, from the nation state as a solvent for tribal animosities to the idea of limited government, civil society, traditional religion, and traditional families.

But the American people are right in the middle.  They don't really like capitalism although they like personal achievement; and they like the free stuff from the welfare state.  They are patriotic, but also tribal.  They are traditional, but they like to kick over the cultural traces.  And they vacillate between isolationism and making the world safe for democracy.

In other words, liberals and conservatives have to dissemble.   Liberals have to pretend that they like a strong growth economy and the flag of the United States and "working families."  Conservatives have to pretend that they support Social Security and Medicare and "our teachers."

You can only win as Ronald Reagan when liberals have been messing things up royally for a few years.  You can only win as Barack Obama and bring the troops home when the American people get tired of war.

But if the facts of life are conservative, as Margaret Thatcher may have said, then the facts will eventually win.

Liberals had a chance to adopt the broad outlines of a new political consensus in the 1980s to replace the Keynesian administrative welfare state consensus of the post-WWII years.  But they didn't.  They didn't buy supply-side economics, they didn't buy the reduction of administrative regulation, and they didn't buy the idea that the US should oppose totalitarianism.

The Obama years are the full-dress trial of whether America can flourish with a return to Keynesianism in economics, regulation in government, and "leading from behind" in foreign policy.

In my view, given the liberal refusal to learn the lessons of the Reagan years, we are bound to learn the Reagan lessons the hard way, in economic distress, in cultural decay, and in an advance of Iranian-led Islamism.

When the American people have had enough they will tell us, and there will be plenty of Republican politicians ready, willing, and able to lead us to the sunny green uplands of conservative prosperity and civil society cooperation.

But until then, we must learn to wait.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Keynes is Still Get-out-of-a-jam Economics

Oh dear.  Niall Ferguson, author of numerous books on finance and banking, has received an offer he couldn't refuse from the gay mafia.

He made the mistake of attributing the Keynesian formula of borrow and spend and inflate to Keynes's gayness and childlessness.  Good lord, man.  You should know that you are not allowed to make silly remarks on gays in today's America.  Christians, black conservatives: open season.  But not gays.

Can't you read?  It says right there in the First Amendment that hate speech, as defined by liberal activists, is not a right.

OK.  So I'll retreat to the second line of defense.  Keynes thought the way he did because he was a Bloomsberry, and wanted to knock down everything that Victorians and Edwardians held dear.  All part of the left-wing attack on capitalism and individualism and Christianity.  Nothing personal, old chap.  I expect that Ferguson had something to say about this in The Abyss: World War I and the End of the First Age of Globalization.

Because the whole point of cultural leftism is to oppose and marginalize the growth and achievement ethic of the capitalist entrepreneur.  When you do this you have to replace it with something else, and the Bloomsberries and lefties were happy to oblige.  That something else is the administrative welfare state.

But the administrative welfare state creates a problem.  It puts the credit system on the moral equivalent of a war footing.

In the old days, a nation's economy would only get into trouble as a result of a war.  War credits would upset the balance between debtor and creditor.  During the war debtors would benefit as inflation and government borrowing reduced the value of their debts.  After the war creditors would benefit as financial assets increased in value.  Deflation.

But in the welfare state the government inflates the economy even in peace time.  The result is credit booms that end in recession.

That's all very well, but the government still has to keep paying off its supporters through its welfare-state distribution programs.

Under the old gold standard, you took your lumps.  If the market crashed then bad debts got liquidated and people started over.  Of course, the central bank acted to prevent a liquidity crisis and the collapse of the whole credit system, including both sound and unsound borrowers.

But in the crisis of the Great Depression the political hacks at the Federal Reserve Board didn't understand their job.  They allowed banks to fail and allowed the money supply to contract through the knock-on effect of bank failures.  This was regarded as a failure of capitalism.

Also, the US government raised taxes and raised government spending during the collapse.

It was Keynes who had the genius to come up with a plausible economic doctrine to prevent a recurrence of the Great Crash.  Government would now do what came naturally, and borrow and inflate madly during a recession.  That would tide the economy over until business activity recovered.

Probably, Keynes was wrong.  Probably the only thing needful to do is to stop systemic bank failures until the panic is over.  In other words the government uses its credit to bail out the banks and guarantee deposits until the liquidity crisis passes.  Then it's back to business as usual.

It's salutary to look at the lessons of the Crash of 2008.  In that case, with the failure of Lehman Brothers, the government did not perform its proper function of preventing systemic bank failures.  So you could say that it failed to learn the lesson of the Great Depression.

The policy to prevent systemic bank failure is not a Keynesian innovation.  You can see it developed in the classic Lombard Street by Walter Bagehot.  That was back in the 19th century.

Really, the danger of Keynesianism is not that Keynes was gay, it is that it is focusing on the wrong thing.  The problem is not a lack of stimulus.  The problem is to deal with the load of bad debt that appears in a market crash.  In the 1929 crash the problem was bad margin credit on stocks and bad farm loans.  In the 2008 crash the problem was bad mortgage loans.

So the task for the government during a credit crisis is to deal with the uncertainty --  the lack of "credit" -- caused by the bad debt, the debt that is secured by assets that are no longer worth enough to liquidate the debt without loss and the debt of non-performing debtors.  Keynes muddied the waters by focusing attention on the aftermath rather than the crisis itself.

(One of the ways of dealing with the aftermath is with a "bad bank," a government bank that picks up and sequesters all the bad debt so that the players in the credit market can now be confident that their counterparties can be trusted.)

But all that misses the basic point, that modern welfare state governments weaken the credit system because they are always gaming it to pay off their supporters.  Who knows when we will be able to deal with that problem?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Nobody Knows Nothing Except Cooperation

My whole life is about understanding the world in which we live: the world of the utterly unappreciated  social miracles like the "price system" and the "credit system" that are not really systems at all, but universes of humans cooperating together.

So here comes Kevin Williamson from National Review writing about the same thing.  He reminds us of Leonard Reed's great discovery: "Nobody knows how to make a pencil."  There are a few people, somewhere in this world, that know how to do bits of it.  But for the rest of us, all we need to know is how to use a pencil.
That is the paradox of social knowledge: Of course we know how to make a pencil, even though none of us knows how to make a pencil, and pencils get made with very little drama and no central authority, corporate or political, overseeing their creation.
But if everyone can enjoy the use of a pencil or an iPhone, how come the Obama daughters go to a better school that the offspring of immigrants?
The reason for that is politics: not liberal politics, not conservative politics, not bad politics, but politics per se... The useful knowledge in any modern society is distributed rather than centralized... Markets work for the same reason that the Internet works: They are not organizations, but disorganizations... pockets of organization, their internal structures and relationships to one another in a constant state of flux. Market propositions are experimental propositions.
So when you have centralized systems -- of education, for example -- you get the Obama daughters getting a good education and the poor getting a lousy education.  Because that's how politics works, always and everywhere.

And then we come to the central truth, the one we do not want to confront.
 Conservatives like to say “Markets work,” as though that were an explanation of anything. What we really are saying is: “Failure works.” Corporations are mortal. Failure is not only an important part of the market process, it is the most important part of the market process.
Failure means that every corporation goes to die, because in the end it fails to adapt, fails to anticipate the market, fails to serve the consumer.  Want to find an immortal corporation?  Try politics and the US Postal Service, or Amtrak, or your local education monopoly.  They are not really immortal, but living in an half-dead zombie existence, not really producing wealth and prosperity but sucking the blood out of the living to continue a twilight existence.  Being already half-dead they do not grow or evolve.  They merely suck the life out of others.

We do not have a market system or a profit system or a price system or a credit system, for these human cooperations we insult with the notion of "system" are anything but.  They are organisms, joinings, adaptation, trust, good-will, and hard-learned lessons.

The hardest thing for everyone is to surrender to the challenge of constant change.  Everyone longs for a reprieve from change.  The disappointed liberal longs for the certainties of the 1950s when everyone had a lifetime job -- except they didn't.  The conservative longs for the halcyon days of the nuclear family -- except that it never was.  The academic longs to implement his intellectual system -- except that no system survives the first day of implementation.  But reality is much bigger than that.  It is a triumph of not of dominating system, or frantic competition, but cooperation.  Williamson again.
But what is remarkable about human action is not its competitiveness but its almost limitless cooperativeness. Competition is one of the ways in which we learn how best to cooperate with one another and thereby deal with the problem of complexity — it is a means to the end of social cooperation. Cooperation exists elsewhere in the animal kingdom, but human beings cooperate on a species-wide, planetary level, which is a relatively new development in our evolution, the consequences of which we have not yet fully appreciated. If you consider the relationship of the organism to its constituent organs, the relationship of the organ to its cells, or the relationship of the single cell to its organelles, it would not be an overstatement to say that the division of labor is the essence of life itself: Birds do it, bees do it, but human beings do it better. 
But Marx, as we recently complained, wrote that the division of labor was an inhuman and destructive alienation.  What is wrong with these people?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Liberals on Koch

Years and years ago the culture king Richard Hofstadter wrote The Paranoid Style in American Politics.  That was in the glory days when liberals knew they were going to inherit the earth.  Here is Hofstadter stating his thesis.
American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years, we have seen angry minds at work, mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated, in the Goldwater movement, how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But, behind this, I believe, there is a style of mind that is far from new, and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style, simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.
He goes on write about fear of Illuminism, Freemasonry, the Jesuits, ending up with the paranoia of McCarthyism and the John Birch Society.

Only, of course, there really were Communists in the State Department and they really were spying for the Soviet Union.

I like to say that, when people lose four presidential elections in a row, they start to get crazy, and they start to look for something under the bed.  That is what happened to the right in the late 1940s.  Also, of course, when things start to go wrong people are tempted to see the hand of Satan.

Things aren't going too well for liberals right now, and so they are inclined to look for the hand of Satan and hidden conspiracies.

Like the Koch Brothers, principal owners of Koch Industries, a private multinational corporation
involved in core industries such as the manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, chemicals, energy, fiber, intermediates and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, ranching, finance, commodities trading, as well as other ventures and investments. The firm employs 50,000 people in the United States and another 20,000 in 59 other countries.
I don't know who first decided to gin the Kochs up as Principal Corporate Villains, but you can see the convenience of putting a human face on oil companies and conservative foundations.

Your average Exxon-Mobil is merely a public corporation led by faceless corporate bureaucrats.  The Koch brothers are libertarians that fund Reason magazine, the Cato Institute, have put a bit of money into climate skepticism, and also do things like fund a new science center at their New England prep school, Deerfield Academy.

Yes, the Koch brothers are libertarians not snaggle-toothed Christian conservatives.

Now the Koch brothers are thinking of buying the Tribune newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times that was once owned by the liberal Chandler family.  It turns out that the journalists at the Times are terrified.
The thought of the Koch brothers purchasing the Los Angeles Times so distressed staffers attending a recent in-house award ceremony that half of them raised their hands when asked if they would quit their jobs should the paper — which has come out of bankruptcy court and is very much for sale — fall into the two oil billionaires’ portfolio, the Huffington Post reported recently.
Oh please.

In my view liberals are shooting themselves in the foot by getting their knickers in a twist over the Koch brothers -- not to mention Christian conservatives, right-wing "hate groups" and corporate personhood.  It shows that liberals are worried.  And you don't want to let your enemy think that you are getting a case of the shivers.

If liberals had any sense they would be working night and day trying to figure out how to fix the mess in the economy and the train wreck that we call the welfare state.  If liberals could straighten that out it wouldn't matter what a couple of libertarian businessmen were doing or what the Christian conservatives were doing.  Liberals would be expanding their majority as Americans in their millions would come to experience the liberals as wise and sensible leaders.

But in fact the liberals are sitting in a circle complaining that the all-powerful Koch brothers aided by the wascally Wepublicans in Congress have spoiled the soup.  They have no ideas for jump-starting the economy except more government spending and more debt; they have no ideas for fixing the welfare state other than more of the same.  Oh and they think it would be a great idea to go back to the tax rates of the 1950s when everyone had a good job at good wages at a big corporation.

That's when people gravitate towards the paranoid style in American politics.  When they are flat out of ideas and flat out of get up and go.

I was talking to a liberal friend the other day.  She still thinks that Barack Obama is an intellectual.  And she is old enough to know that you cannot believe anything you read about presidents until people start to write the show-and-tell biographies long after the powerful have left the stage.

Really, the liberal obsession with the Koch brothers is the most encouraging political portent out there.  It shows that liberals have lost it.